Why Criticism is Such a Tough Pill to Swallow. And How Do We Make It Go Down Easier?
Why Criticism is Such a Tough Pill to Swallow. And How Do We Make It Go Down Easier?

Criticism is never fun or easy, but there is always a way to make the most of it

Taking criticism in business or franchising requires practice, humility, and certainly a lot of self-awareness. But it’s your ability to learn from criticism that can fuel growth at work, spark creativity, and help open additional channels of communication.

Tempering your emotions, however, can be especially hard when receiving criticism. Our brains are simply not wired for it. At any given moment in time, our brains are scanning our environment and looking for dangers to defend against—ready to fight or take flight. But our brains don’t just protect us against physical dangers. Research shows that our brains also go on the defensive in relation to social acceptance and/or rejection. With this in mind, it’s a safe bet to assume that receiving critical feedback is likely to spark that same fight or flight response.

It’s no wonder we don’t always graciously respond to criticism in the workplace—the strong feelings that ensue can be tough to control. We typically react badly to feedback for a few simple reasons—we may dislike the person delivering the criticism or the feedback challenges our sense of security. Sometimes we also distort feedback into a personal critique. And extra restraint is often needed if a supervisor issues a critique in front of other colleagues.

While criticism is certainly hard to digest, even when you understand the underlying emotions involved, there is a better way to give feedback. Tell the other person first what you like about the specific topic being covered. Give meaningful, specific examples and don’t rush through it. Then, move on to what would make you like it even more.

The goal is to be as tangible and helpful in your praise as you are in your criticism. Don’t just say it’s great, but be specific about what is great about it. The details matter and those on the receiving end are more likely to absorb what you value.

Then, when you introduce suggestions for improvement, you’re framing the idea around what can take something from good to great. Another great thing about this approach is that it forces the person giving the criticism to find something they like, despite how hard that might be.
In the end, all feedback has some form of truth in it. And you have to constantly ask yourself: what is the nugget I can take out of this and how can I use this to move forward?